Not surprisingly, Athens is sizzling hot in the summer! Relief from the heat isn’t in sight, so mornings and evenings are the best time for physical activity, unless you’re comfortable baking in the sun at crowded beaches. My skin says no, but a refreshing swim sounds good!
I usually travel off season, avoiding crowds, overpriced accommodation, and the dizzy summertime vacation scene. Tourist-frenzied streets aren’t appealing, but I enjoy talking with happy holidaymakers at neighborhood tavernas.
Long walks are challenging in the heat, so I’m frequenting leafy, shaded areas. Fortunately, Athens has almost as many parks as historical artifacts, and some display impressive sculptings and monuments amidst their lush flora.
Architecture, Theatre, Dance
After scaling a barrage of stone steps, Philopappos and Pnyx are waiting on the other side of Koukaki. There are several entrances, some pass ancient architecture, like the 16th Century AD Chapel of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and the Wall of Themistocles, built in 460 BC.
Filopappou Theatre (Dora Stratou Theatre) is on the western slope of Philopappos Hill. Dora Stratou, a famous Greek dancer, founded the Greek Dances-Dora Stratou Society to preserve traditional music, costumes, and dance.
Philopappos Hill is the highest of the three hills of the Acropolis. The other two are Areopagus (Mars) Hill and Pnyka (Pnyx) Hill with its extension, Hill of the Nymphs. Each has its own unique significance, history, and myths.
This morning, I hiked up Pynx Hill first and found it magical! The Mediterranean pine forest is dense and there’s less foot traffic. It leads to a National Observatory at the summit and the small Chapel of Saint George Alexandrinos.
I hiked Philopappos Hill afterwards. Although there were more tourists, the area exudes peaceful vibes. From the top, glorious views of the Acropolis are almost surreal, and the Monument to Philopappos is spectacular!
Philopappos Hill is also known as the Hill of the Muses. It’s a popular viewing platform with indescribable and unforgettable panoramic views of Athens, the Acropolis, and the Aegean Sea! It’s embellished with unique stone pathways and Mediterranean pine forests.
The creative stone steps and walking trails were designed by Greek architect, artist, and city planner Dimitris Pikionis. His designs combine “natural motifs with classical and intricate Byzantine patterns”. I took photos of some of the images etched in the pathways. They must have a special meaning.
“The summit of Filopappou Hill is adorned with a funerary monument designed in honor of Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, the last prince of the Kingdom of Commagene, who died in 116 AD.”
“After being exiled, Philopappos returned to Athens, became an Athenian citizen, and held religious and civil offices. Highly esteemed by Athens residents, he’s considered one of the city’s great benefactors.”
Philopappos Tomb and Socrates Prison
After his death, the citizens of Athens erected a tomb in his memory. Philopappos’ monument was built of marble from nearby Mount Pentelikon and Mount Imittos.
The monument is a “two-story structure. The lower level is a frieze representing Philopappos as a consul riding on a chariot led by lictors. The upper-level shows statues of three men – Prince Antiochus IV on the left, Philopappos in the centre, and Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great, on the right”.
Close to the monument and “obscured from sight, there’s a fascinating stone structure with iron bars. According to myth, this is where Greek philosopher Socrates was imprisoned and died.”
Concerts and Next Stop
I’ve booked several outside concerts – opera, jazz, ballet – and an island-hopping sailing / snorkeling day trip. The traditional sailboat looks gorgeous! Hopefully, the outing will help me determine interest in spending time on the islands. I packed a special top to keep my backside from getting fried while snorkeling. Despite exorbitant summer prices, most of the islands are fully booked through summer, so that might foil plans to spend time there in August.
Some of the Cyclades being considered include Milos, Kimolos, Paros, Naxos, Serifos, and Sifnos. Locals say these small islands are less-touristed and provide a more “complete” Greek experience with an interesting mix of culture, watersports, and food. I’m also considering Crete, the largest Greek island. At this point, no idea where I’ll end up?
One thing all cities visited so far – Belgrade, Istanbul, and now Athens – have in common is horrific traffic. The nightmare gridlock hasn’t affected me much, because when not on foot, I’ve been using the Metro and Trams. Sadly, I’ve learned to fear Athens motorcycles. They rarely give pedestrians the right of way, and can terrorize you by appearing unexpectedly any time from all directions. On narrow cobblestone streets, I’ve almost been hit several times, while minding my own business well within pedestrian zones. When high density gets to you, spending a few days on an isolated beach sounds good.
Tonight, I’m attending a Greek National Opera Verdi Gala in open-air Panathenaic Stadium!
I adore Greek music and dance. Each island differs. I found that on Crete more “enthusiastic” than the video included here. But my memories are from so many years ago. Poros, for example. The accommodation looks so much more upmarket than my experience. Then, I simply stepped off the ferry, had a chat with some locals hanging around, and chose one. It was simple, clean and safe, with a fabulous view of the harbour and a hop, skip and jump to watch the fishing fleet come in, or have dinner at a harbourside taverna. Oh! The simple days.
The recommendations were from the Greek owner of my apartment in Athens. He sails and spends lots of time in the islands. During a previous visit, I went to almost all the islands he advised avoiding – Mykonos, Satorini, Rhodes, etc. :o( Accommodations on most of the islands referenced in my blog post are $4K and up for a few weeks! Surprisingly, most of them are already booked for August! My guess is it’s mostly couples and small groups of people traveling together. Accommodation for a solo traveler duing prime season is problematic, especially right now, as people regain their freedom a bit and begin to travel after covid restrictions. Malta accommodations are also off the chart in summer. Cypus is better, but I need to research safety – not that I’ve ever let that hold me back… Also thought about Zanzibar which I’ve visited several times before, but Africa is such a mess right now. My experience has been that ALL advertisements for holday lodging are deceptive and borderline lies. Tourism is such a big industry these days. I plan to look into a performance at Dora Stratou Dance Theatre. After over a week, I’m finally getting comfortable maneuvering my way around Athens, but the heat is terrible…
It’s all sounding complicated, but I’m sure you will make the best of it. Enjoy the dancing!
Sadly, the dancing isn’t happening – covid? Booked a week in August on MIlos and will return to Athens for the rest of the month. Now, I have to figure out how to get there on the ferry and what, if any, special covid requriements are necessary. Heard Greece may have changed some entry requirements, but my brain didn’t want to pay attention… ENOUGH covid already! :o(
We are in lockdown in my part of the world. The Delta strain is creating havoc, and the vaccination rollout is very slow. Oh? Did you say enough Covid already? LOL.
Aughhhhh – that’s terrible! :o(
Personally, it’s okay. Another two days and the latest version of my manuscript will be ready to go back to the editor.
But we have had two deaths in two days. A number which is meaningless on the world stage. But a number which is significant to Australia, especially since it allows us all to see the individual behind the statistic.
That’s very sad Gwen…. So far, I haven’t known anyone personally who died from covid. I think the developing and third world countries are the most tragic, as they had so many horrific problems even before covid. I really want to return to South Africa, but it’s probably not advisable right now. Congratulations on your manuscript! What’s the theme of the new work? Wish I could sit still long enough to write a book, but so far, I’ve been too active. With almost 600 travel posts – it would be a nightmare fleshing them out and creating something – requiring lots of time and discipline. I find the researching and writing blog posts helps me recap activities while traveling, not sure I could do them after the fact. It’s a good exercise. Re-reading the posts will be helpful when I’m senile and finally have to give it up and stay home. So far on this trip I feel physically great, but there are challenges every day!
I lost a very dear friend at the outset. He was an orderly in a London hospital. it makes it all very real.
My current work is like a prequel to my published memoir (I Belong to No One). It focuses on my grandmother and her sister. It sets out to explore the relationship between illegitimacy and inter-generational trauma. Spanning 1890-1955 it includes much Australian social history (including the Spanish Flu).
I have your first book on Kindle! Made a tentative booking for an apartment in Prague during September – another place visited several times that has a hold on me – very beautiful and a bit mysterious. Keep hoping Scotland opens up – right now, they have “prepaid, managed 10-day quarantine” in a hotel – uh, don’t think so….
We have similar (14 day) hotel quarantine, but you need a good reason to come into the country anyway. Didn’t realise Scotland had gone down that route – interesting!
We had five wonderful days in Prague. So much to see. September is a good time also.
I’d love to hear your feedback when you do get a chance to read my book.
I see you are up for another day in the high thirties.